The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #166522 Message #4122202
Posted By: Donuel
07-Oct-21 - 06:06 PM
Thread Name: MOAB - Mother of All BS [annex]
Subject: RE: MOAB - Mother of All BS [annex]
On the more dystopian side of the spectrum, Wired reported on a filmmaker named Michael Usry who was accused of a 1996 murder in Idaho Falls nearly 20 years after the fact — coincidentally the same month that Phoenix police got their break in the Canal Killer investigation.
Usry, who was a teenager at the time of the killing, was picked up by police at his doorstep in New Orleans in December 2014, Wired wrote. He was interrogated by an FBI agent and spent a month under suspicion — all because the killer’s genetic code was similar to his father’s, whose DNA sample had been obtained by Ancestry.com.
But unlike Miller and DeAngelo, Usry’s DNA test ruled him out as a suspect. His father was one of many false positives that plague familial DNA testing, Wired wrote.
“He seemed like a really good candidate,” an Idaho Falls police sergeant told the New Orleans Advocate after Usry was cleared. “But we’ve had that happen before.” Whodathought Idaho would stymie the country from successful familial DNA searchs.
Familial DNA searches, in fact, had an 83 percent failure rate in a 2014 British study, Wired wrote. This is part of the reason that many warn against the practice, even as law enforcement agencies master its uses.
“The technique is arousing fierce objections from privacy advocates, who maintain that it turns family members into genetic informants without their knowledge or consent,” Ellen Nakashima wrote in The Washington Post in 2008, long before the popularity of genealogy sites exploded.
Since then, Wired reported, Maryland and the District of Columbia have banned familial DNA searches, while the method is regulated in several other states, including California, where police used it to track down the Golden State Killer suspect.
“You allow that low-quality potential evidence to start being searched in these unregulated databases,” Stephen Mercer, a former public defender who helped pass the ban on familial search in Maryland, told The Post. “You’re casting a wide net of suspicion over many, many people.”
The use of genetic websites in the hunt for the Golden State Killer also led investigators to misidentify a potential suspect last year, according to court records obtained by the Associated Press on Friday. The daughter of a 73-year-old Oregon City man said authorities swabbed her father for DNA in a nursing home without her knowledge.
Aware that their millions of customers don’t necessarily want to inform on their relatives, some genealogy companies actively resist handing over data to police, STAT wrote this week.
23andMe, one of the earliest and most popular DNA search companies, has refused all law enforcement requests, the outlet wrote. Ancestry has, too — at least since 2014, when police used its database to erroneously accuse Usry of the 1996 Idaho Falls murder.
However, the California investigators did not use either of those sites to find the family of the Golden State Killer suspect. Rather, they reportedly ran their old evidence through GEDmatch, a relatively small, free service that allows users to upload and analyze their DNA sequences.
“We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the [suspected] Golden State Killer,” the company said in a statement. “Although we were not approached by law enforcement or anyone else about this case or about the DNA, it has always been GEDmatch’s policy to inform users that the database could be used for other uses.”
It’s precisely those other uses that now, after the sensational break in a 40-year-old serial killer case, excite and alarm so many people.
“I think it’s revolutionary,” Richard Shelby, a former Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detective who hunted the Golden State Killer in the 1970s, told The Post after this week’s arrest.
“If criminals out there know they can be tracked down this way, they are going to have to try to not leave their DNA at the scene, and that’s nearly impossible,” he said. “It’s one of the best crime-fighting tools to come in a long, long time, we are paeticularly interested in a man named Mike.”
Justin Jouvenal, Drew Harwell and Tom Jackman contributed to this